Where Would We Be Without Mill?
In J.S. Mill’s On Liberty, he discusses the idea of whether or not people should be allowed to express their opinions freely even if those opinions are unpopular and go against “the norm.” He stated that silencing such people and their opinions would be detrimental to society because those unpopular opinions may turn out to be true and it would get rid of the possibility for debate. Fortunately, everyone enjoys freedom of expression in the United States. However, I firmly believe that this freedom, along with many others, is grossly under-appreciated and taken for granted. I completely understand how easy it is to take this freedom for granted because it is so normal and commonplace in our society and we couldn’t imagine life without it. Having said that, I think it is important to do so — to imagine life without freedom of expression.
First of all, if we weren’t allowed to express unpopular beliefs and opinions there would be one religion, regardless of how you feel about it. Everyone would decide on rituals, practices, and number and characteristics of gods. In addition, we wouldn’t have the multi-party system of government. There would essentially be one party that creates the platform and policies that must be accepted as truth. Also, we wouldn’t even have elections since there would be no discrepancy between beliefs and opinions. Education as we know it would certainly not exist. I imagine that everyone would still go to school but there would be no discussion, period. Everyone would sit at a desk and listen to the teacher lecture and accept everything he/she said as fact. Creativity would also be nonexistent. Everyone would agree on what “art” and “music” should be and there would be no room for trying different things and different methods.
Do you think you would like living in this type of society? I certainly would not, but unfortunately, there are many people in this world who live in these societies. They are ruled by dictators who tell them what to do, how to think, and who to pray to, and there is very little they can do about it. Even if someone tried to make a change, he/she would most likely be murdered.
Mill’s theory on expression is the reason why we enjoy our lives so much in America and why we are currently seeing citizens of middle eastern countries rise up against their oppressive governments. Freedom of expression is the essence of life, and without it, our lives would be extremely dull and monotonous. But then again, since everything would be accepted as the only way of doing things, would we even notice or care?